Green Deal and Port Upgrade

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Transport plays a key role both in the cohesion of the European Union and in its growth through trade with the rest of the world. Europe’s transport system has been a huge success, connecting people across the continent and reducing journey times. However, as transport is a key component of our daily life, the carbon footprint of our transport activities has grown. Transport currently accounts for a quarter of the European Union’s (EU) greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and this figure continues to rise as demand grows. The European Commission (EC) tries constantly to tackle the issue towards the formulation of transport system into a smart, green and societal friendly system. These efforts culminated in the clear commitment of the recent European Green Deal Strategy, which seeks for a 90% reduction in emissions by 2050[1] through the introduction of more sustainable, affordable, accessible, healthier and cleaner alternatives.

Analysing the air emissions caused at a mode level, waterborne transport occupies the largest part of global trade and accounts for 13% of GHG emissions in the EU[2]. Despite a number of measures being in place since the early years of the last decade, greenhouse gas emissions of shipping increased from 977 million tonnes (Mt) in 2012 to 1,076 Mt in 2018, a 9.6% rise, according to the 4th IMO GHG study. A more drastic course of action will need to be deployed before emissions from waterborne transport start to decline. `today it is evident, that the blend of marine fuels will require a substantial zero carbon component. `such a component is not easy to implement especially if the flow of goods, the efficiency of transport and the quality of service provided are not to be disrupted. Substantial investment will be required in port infrastructure as zero carbon fuels require the development of new supply chains. Ports in particular, as intermodal hubs, play a pivotal role in the transportation chain both as facilitators of the flow of people and cargo but also as concentration points of emissions. Furthermore, although inland waterway transport is considered to be a sustainable, safe, and environmentally friendly mode of transport, it is estimated to produce 3.8 million tons of CO2 emissions per year in the EU[3], with its capacity far from fully exploited and as its utilization increases so do the respective emission problems. Climate change at a global level is of utmost importance for international shipping and should be prioritised, including a robust and effective enforcement at global level with the aim of maintaining the competitiveness of shipping and inland waterways.

[1] European Green Deal – https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/HTML/?uri=CELEX:52019DC0640&from=EN

[2] https://ec.europa.eu/info/sites/info/files/research_and_innovation/funding/documents/european_partnership_for_zero- emission_waterborne_transport.pdf

[3] https://ec.europa.eu/info/sites/info/files/research_and_innovation/funding/documents/european_partnership_for_zero- emission_waterborne_transport.pdf

The main challenge and motivation is to maintain a balance between optimal energy use and the environmental impact it causes. Such balance can only be accomplished with the introduction of novel technologies and concepts that can transform the entire system into a zero-emissions mode of transport with environmentally sustainable operations, low maintenance lifecycle costs and optimised performance. To deploy viable zero-emission technologies and introduce appropriate business models, the sector needs to significantly enhance its innovation efforts in the coming decade and combine them with the investments already being in place. The combination of the two would strengthen the development of tailor-made products and solutions that would allow the digital transformation and transition of waterborne transport nodes into energy efficient multimodal hubs characterised by efficient and effective services.

Carbon-neutral port activities need to be developed through the application of green initiatives on port operations, vessels and energy industrial production.